Tag Archives: Tommy Keene

Mixtape: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

 Mixtape time again!

This one, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not – was from my monthly mixtape swaps back in 1997. Here’s what I wrote back then as an introduction:

Love comes in spurts, says Richard Hell. Love comes in cycles, sez me. The wonder of a crush, the rush of recognition that affection is mutual, the delicate jab and parry of getting to know someone, that first kiss, the first mistake, the uneasy first fight, the first break up (and the wonderful first make-up), the second mistake and third, the wandering eye, being taken for granted, being misunderstood, falling apart, getting sad, getting bitter, getting haunted, that smile-on-the-surface but acid-in-your-stomach feeling of seeing them with someone else, the greens and blues, the depression, the worthlessness and then just when you think you’ll jump…that new person who sends a thousand volts through your spine and into your heart. Another chance, and you drag your still smoldering carcass through the whole mess again.

So here’s the yang and yin; the L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E tattoos that Robert Mitchum wore on his knuckles are now on your heart.

(This one’s for you, Eli.)

SHE LOVES ME side

DANIELLES MOUTH – Crush

Sweet, saucy, sexy – is there anything better than a crush? Can be innocent, but I know what Danielle wants!

JONNY POLONSKY – Love Lovely Love

I know Jonny isn’t sixteen, but it’s that bubbly optimism that gets me. Great pop record, except it was only 30 minutes long…

BIG STAR – Thirteen

One of my favorite songs, ever! Alex Chilton perfectly captures that frustration of being a (sorry, Dion) “teenager in love”

MARSHALL CRENSHAW – I’ll Do Anything

From maybe the best debut record ever….love makes you do funny things!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Please Say Please

This Beatle-esque rocker a bonus track on the reissue of the great “Sincerely” record. Self-explanatory!

THE REPLACEMENTS – Kiss Me On The Bus

Maybe the same couple from “Thirteen”? Forget what’s proper and KISS ME, baby!

PHIL SEYMOUR – Baby It’s You

The late, great Phil with what has to be one of the most perfect pop records ever made! Sing it LOUD!

ADAM SCHMITT – Garden of Love

So you’re afraid, baby, been hurt before? Trust me! From what might be the best record of the 1990’s

LOU CHRISTIE – Lightning Strikes

I remember this from when I was a young pup, having my heart yo-yo’d for one of the first of many times. A classic!

BEN VAUGHN – Words Can’t Say What I Want To Say

Yeah, I’ve felt like this. That ga-ga, mouth-open, please-god-don’t-let-me-say-something-stupid moment

RICHARD X HEYMAN – When She Arrives

I can’t wait until “Cornerstone” comes out so you can all see what a great record this is. A love cycle in itself!

THE FACES – Tell Everyone

A Ronnie Lane tune, but Rod sings it…true love settles in for the long haul?

CROWDED HOUSE – Fall At Your Feet

An adult version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”, with music so pretty I’d love it even without the words! Uh-oh, side’s over….

SHE LOVES ME NOT side

JOHAN – Easy

Swedish pop rules! A 1997 record that almost slipped by sees the chink in the armour…

THE FLASHCUBES – You’re Not The Police

Things are starting to fall apart..we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds. GREAT 1997 reissue!

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – Bored Of You

Uh-oh….nice guys finish last. Why do women want to be treated like queens and then fall for rude assholes? Moe knows…

THE RUBINOOS – Over You

Where I start lying to myself, saying that it doesn’t hurt…all the while my heart is bleeding…

THE MONTGOMERY CLIFFS – Tonight

More bravado, and two can play that game, baby…this time when you put the cheese in the trap, I’m not buying.

JEN TRYNIN – I Resign

I think Jen is the best female songwriter around. I love the way her mind works!

THE RASCALS – You Better Run

Pat Benetar, eat your heart out. Oh yeah – I ain’t gonna eat out my heart anymore……

THE BEAT – I Will Say No

Go on, get out of my life, and let me make a new start. Maybe the longest fade out in pop history

KENNY HOWES – Somebody

Not sure if she’s still trying to come back or whether I’m fooling myself, but I feel better. Get lost!

THE KINKS – Set Me Free

It’s frightening to think just how many great songs Ray Davies wrote in about three years time. Bye Bye Baby!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Release Me

I never put an artist on a tape twice, but have to here. SINCERELY is a Desert Island Disk! Heartbreak!

TOMMY KEENE – Nothing Happened Yesterday

More self-denial from one of the great pop unknowns. I am man, hear me roar!

TONIO K – Stay

Oh shit….two damaged people see that spark and circle each other – should I try to fall in love again? Flip the tape over, honey, ’cause here we go again!

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Blast From The Past: Don Dixon

Don Dixon

No, no...thank YOU, sir.

Don Dixon has been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. I first discovered him after he stepped out from behind his producer’s chair with R.E.M. and Tommy Keene to cut an album of his own, and every release since has been a gleeful pleasure. I love his sandpaper vocals and knack for melody;  “Praying Mantis”, “Southside Girl” and “Your Sister Told Me” are just some of the tunes that became a staple of my mixtapes during the ’80s. And every release since then has been a treasure.

He continued to engineer and produce a who’s who of jangle-pop songwriters and bands, quickly becoming the go-to guy (along with Mitch Easter) for artists like Marshall Crenshaw, Guadalcanal Diary and Matthew Sweet. And his partnership with wife Marti Jones not only elevated her albums to a greater height but their live collaborations (i.e. Chi-Town Budget Show) were magic. But somewhere along the late ’90s, with grunge and hip-hop and teenybop-pop milking what was left of radio, he drifted out of the limelight.

When he “came back” a few years later on Gadfly Records with Invisible Man, I was thrilled. He’s recorded sporadically snce then (his latest releases are available digitally) and continues to be a favorite. Those of you unfamiliar with him are in for a treat (check out his early band Arrogance as well!). Here’s what I penned about Invisible Man for Consumable Online back in 2002…

Invisible Man

Thankfully you can hear him

 Invisible Man would be a good nickname for someone whose recording career seemed to slam on the brakes in 1995, but Don Dixon’s production and session work for some of music’s brighter lights has kept him very busy. And it’s not like radio is screaming for a literate, funny writer with a knack for hooks and a raspy but soulful voice. The Invisible Man certainly won’t qualify him for stadium tour status, but it’s a solid collection of songs presented through the guise of a song cycle, albeit a scattered one. Usually thematic pieces are presented in order; but Dixon’s life observations are ordered more by musical structure. What do you want from a producer?

The first three songs are presented from the viewpoint of a man in the prime of his life, and the music is appropriately confident and upbeat. “Invisible & Free” (which you will think is called “Kara” until you look at the track list) is an upbeat song that plays with the lyrics effectively, a typical Dixon maneuver. “Do So Well” is probably the closest to his prior solo work — soulful Southern rock and R&B — while the lively “Tax The Churches” could best be described as Memphis surf music, a kissing cousin to “Praying Mantis.” But two songs later, the stark and frail “All I Wanted” is narrated by an 85 year old man recounting a life of wasted opportunity. The vocal is a drop dead Elvis Costello intonation as a single, rhythmic acoustic guitar ticks away what little time remains.

“Digging A Grave” and “Then I Woke Up” are sung as the ruminations of a man in late middle age, and despite the characters’ mortality questions, are also strong musically. The oddest piece, “High Night For The Tide,” juxtaposes island rhythms and a sound not unlike Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells. The somber island percussion reappears on the closing song “Why Do Children Have To Die?,” whose placement on the record is as odd as its title. I know Dixon is not going for a hit record here, but I’m not sure that’s the taste he wanted to leave in my ear as I depart, either.

Dixon fans may dive into this redemptive opera wholeheartedly, or they may opt to dip in only for the songs that tickle their fancy. If anyone on Americana or (gasp!) pop radio ever hears these tunes, they’ll be one at a time, so buying into the concept won’t be as critical. And that’s vintage Dixon — putting his wares out on that table and letting you find the gems for yourself. Welcome back!

The Gadfly Records website

Don Dixon’s wonderful catalogue here

Visit Don Dixon online here.

(And don’t forget Marti Jones!)

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NEW ALBUM! Tommy Keene

 

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

Although far from a household name, Tommy Keene has been around for a long time and has a strong following in power-pop circles. He’s never had a hit record per se, but those who are knowledgeable about the indie and melodic rock scene are very familiar with the singer-singwriter’s catalogue; he’s been a critical favorite for almost thirty years. Not exceedingly prolific, there have been a couple of breaks in his career, but just as interestingly, a couple of kick-starts. (I really thought the Alias retrospective The Real Underground would have launched him into the stratosphere…maybe with a Warner Brothers or Columbia budget it might have).

He’s been on the cusp of stardom for so long he probably has an office there. Geffen Records tried to promote him as a pop hero in the post-New Wave era. He’s had credible players like Peter Buck, Jay Bennett and Robin Wilson helping out on albums where his strong originals are often accompanied by great cover songs like Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons” or “Tattoo” from The Who Sell Out. He’s partnered with Bob Pollard and hit the road as a lead guitarist (where he rocks considerably harder than on his own material) with Paul Westerberg and Velvet Crush. But despite often great critical acclaim, he’s managed to stay on the cult side of the popularity fence while far less talented artists landed on the front pages.

Tommy Keene live performing “Run Now

There are a lot of artists who haven’t hit a high note in their catalogue to touch “Places That Are Gone“, “Run Now” or “Back To Zero“, and while I don’t think he’s recaptured that majesty in a while himself, there’s a great body of work out there well worth exploring. I think at this stage of the game he’s just in it to please himself, which allows him to wallow in the areas he enjoys without concern for the headlines. It gives him a chance to dabble in artistic relationships he enjoys, do his own thing or pinch-hit with others, and every four years or so drop another project out there for the fans (while that group may not be massive, they are loyal). Sounds like a nice life to me.

You can read my review of In The Late Bright in Blurt Magazine.

Tour info, clips and tons more at Tommy Keene’s website.

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Tributes

I got a couple of emails from readers of yesterday’s post who were loving the Beatles cover comp and asking about tributes, since I’m on record as an obsessive fan of such efforts. On more than one occasion I’ve made my mixtape entry a covers collection (even pilfering a Replacements track title – I’LL BE YOU – for one of the more recent efforts) and I always love when I get them in return. (I’ll have to dig up that comp and post it here in the near future.)

I’ve found that the best ones are usually from independent projects on small labels where the scope will go outside the artist roster. By licensing tracks from other worthy bands that would appeal to the same audience as the internal ringers, the label is saying “we are putting the project first” rather than “this is a cheesey effort to get even the crappiest band on my roster some attention“. Frankly few of these get airplay anyway, so those weaker efforts just wind up in the band’s garage where they belong.

The major labels often blow it as well; too often their efforts wind up using big name artists that have no clue. Of course, with their overhead mapped against the unlikely hit potential, these are not frequent releases. But like the tiny labels trying to build around one good band with filler, the big boys have proven that they’re equally adept at creating a PLE (painful listening experience).

A list of the greatest tribute albums ever deserves more time and thought than I have to spare right now, but I do want to float out a couple of my favorites as well as clue you in to a little known collection assembled by a fellow blogger. These aren’t necessarily the five best, although my favorite tribute ever is included. 

Winner and still champion

Winner and still champion

SING HOLLIES IN REVERSE (eggBert): A majestic collection of power-pop artists including Bill Lloyd, Jon Brion, The Wondermints, Mitch Easter, Tommy Keene and Material Issue. Compiled by the late Greg Dwinnell, this was an all-hits no-misses effort where even the artwork and liner notes were first rate. Greg’s eggBert label also issued a wonderful Bee Gees tribute called MELODY FAIR that was almost as good.

Kovering the Klassics

Kovering the Klassics

THIS IS WHERE I BELONG (Rykodisc): Steve Forbert, Jonathan Richman, Bill Lloyd (the KING of tribute album appearances), Fastball, Fountains of Wayne, Cracker, Minus 5…a solid list of great commercial bands drawing from one of the Koolest Katalogues around. A little better than GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT, which was released around the same time, although “Ring The Bells” by The Model Rockets from the latter might be the best cut of all. (If you can find a copy of SHANGRI-LA on Communion Records, that’s also highly recommended! (Note – if you listen to the Amazon clips, realize that the matchup of artist and song is incorrect).

Whipped Gum and Other Delights

Whipped Gum and Other Delights

RIGHT TO CHEWS (Not Lame): For the bubblegum pop listener in all of us, Not Lame’s impeccable release was complied by John Borack (longtime reviewer and author of Shake Some Action) and features some of the best artists in the current power-pop scene.  Great takes on The 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Ohio Express and Tommy Rowe by Michael Carpenter (genius) , Walter Clevenger (ditto), The Lolas and others. Not Lame has released several great tribute albums for artists as diverse as Gene Clark, Jeff Lynne/ELO and The Cars, among others; every one of them has several chestnuts worth roasting.

Bone Up on these great covers

Bone Up on these great covers

While you’re waiting foa any of the above to arrive in the mail, why not enjoy a great tribute mix right now? Angelo from Power Pop Criminals assembled these brilliant cover comps that are available as free downloads. And on that same page, the excellent rarity and out-of-print Bobby Fuller Four tribute OUR FAVORITE TEXAN.

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